Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray Isn’t the Answer At Running Back

Sigh. Writing and reading that title hurts me as a Dallas Cowboys fan in so many ways. I thought when the Dallas Cowboys selected DeMarco Murray in the third round of the 2011 draft; they were getting a versatile, three down back that had the potential to be great. I envisioned him being a Darren McFadden clone that could stay healthy in the NFL and dominate. And for a four game stretch in the 2011 season, I was convinced that he was going to be a star in this league.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

But after watching him again in 2012 and digging deeper into his stats, I have come to this conclusion: I do not believe that he is the feature back that Dallas Cowboys fans have missed since Emmitt Smith. Similar to Troy Hambrick, Julius Jones, Marion Barber, and Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray has shown flashes of brilliance. But much like the backs before him, we’ve only seen these flashes of brilliance for a few games every year. What the Dallas Cowboys need now isn’t a flash in the pan back, but a player they can consistently rely on to take pressure off Tony Romo and their defense.

As for DeMarco Murray, I am afraid that the book has closed on him. The Cowboys and their fans now know after two years what they are getting out of a player like Murray. I can concede that Murray is one of the most fun running backs to watch in the NFL today. But exciting isn’t always what a team desires out of their running back. Mike Burke made this point yesterday in his article about Barry Sanders vs Emmitt Smith. Barry Sanders was one of the most exciting running backs to ever play the game, but he wasn’t the runner you wanted your team to rely on in big games. While I’m not comparing Murray to Sanders, I am comparing their worth to a winning team.

First I would like to compare Murray to some other running backs in the NFL today that are widely considered to be equal or better than Murray. I wanted to show that running backs with similar work loads are actually more productive than Murray. What jumps out to me when looking at these stats is just how allergic DeMarco Murray is to the end zone.

Player

Carries/Game

Yards/Game

TDs/Game

Career YPC

DeMarco Murrary

14.1

67.8

0.26

4.8

Darren McFadden

13.5

58.5

0.31

4.3

Ray Rice

15.7

71.6

0.42

4.5

Steven Jackson

18.2

77.3

0.42

4.2

LeSean McCoy

14.3

66.6

0.51

4.6

Frank Gore

16.4

76.1

0.43

4.6

I am one of the biggest stat writers there is. But sometimes, stats can lie. Blogging The Boys recently posted an article about  the most overrated Dallas Cowboys and came to the conclusion that DeMarco Murray was because they also believe that stats lie. Their premise was that if you eliminated Murray’s four game stretch in 2011 when he first broke out against the St. Louis Rams in 2011, that Murray has since averaged only 3.84 yards per carry. Currently, his yards per carry stands at 4.8, second on the chart above. However since that four game stretch, he has played in 14 games and has posted 250 carries for only 959 yards and only four touchdowns. Those are very pedestrian numbers for a back that is considered to be a top talent among his peers in the NFL.

What also worries me about DeMarco Murray is that he typically starts game off strong, averaging 5.3 yards per carry in the first quarter. But by the fourth quarter he’s only averaging 3.1 yards per rush. The fourth quarter is when most of the team’s big runs should occur, and last year his longest run of the fourth quarter was only 15 yards. Not good. Compare that fourth quarter to the likes of LeSean McCoy who averaged 4.8 in the final quarter or to Adrian Peterson who averaged 5.8 yards. When the Cowboys need to run the ball to control the clock and put the game away, Murray just isn’t as productive as he needs to be for the team to win.

Many NFL analysts and commentators around the league want Dallas to become a more run-heavy team in 2013. Right now I believe that is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons. DeMarco Murray hasn’t been able to become the workhorse back that many had envisioned. He just isn’t very productive when he touches the ball.

What then should the Dallas Cowboys do at running back if DeMarco Murray isn’t the answer? Luckily for this team, the strength of the roster revolves around Tony Romo and his passing options. Even if a new playcaller wants to run the ball more in 2013, he knows that the team will go only as far as Romo, Bryant, and Witten take them. Another positive for Murray in 2013 may be the departure of Lawrence Vickers. In 2012, Murray only averaged 2.9 yards per carry with a fullback on the field, while he averaged 4.6 yards per carry as a lone back. In the end, I see DeMarco Murray as an exciting player who can “wow” fans from time to time. But in my opinion he will never be the reliable back that this team needs. While I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong in 2013, a backfield that features DeMarco Murray could be very underwhelming for many Cowboy fans.

Tags: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray

  • Hassan Chop

    you’re a goober and your writing sucks – like this website!

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    Find something else to write about. Murray has no significant history to draw any conclusions especially when the limited experience he has was running behind a notorious offensive line. Thanks for the article though….I needed a good laugh.

  • Chad Keller

    Wow, one and half seasons and you writing him off? That’s not enough of a sample. Does 8-0 when he gets the rock 20 times a game ring a bell? That speaks more volume. He could be the answer, but we just don’t know yet. He is a better downhill runner and the new zone scheme without a fullback will help hims game huge. He has great vision as a RB and vickers didn’t help him.

    I expect a huge bounce back year for Murray in 2013.

  • Dick Cassidy

    Just curious ~ how would you rate the 2011 and 2012 Cowboy OLines against those for the Niners, Ravens, Eagles, Rams and Raiders? Your column indicates you don’t think Vickers helped. What about the OLine?

  • ctcowboy1968

    First, the OL sucks. No RB was going to be successful behind that OL. Especially when it comes to scoring TDs. Second, you are correct that this team will only go as far as Tony takes it. Murray (granted needs more time before conclusions are drawn), McFadden, Felix… not premier RBs because they are hurt to much. McFadden makes a living off putting up huge numbers vs the Chiefs and Chargers twice a year, then sucks, if he on the field, for the rest of the year.
    This team HAS to run the ball more. Vickers was lost last year. Just in Murray’s way. But if Murray gets hurt, then the Boys have to play Randle etc. The problem last year was the coaches played Felix who was worthless. Felix couldn’t get two yards if the D wasn’t on the field.
    I am confident that Murray can lead and produce for this team. But all teams have RB committees and now the Boys need to have one too. Murray can’t be the only RB playing.